Jake Collins interview07.09.2019
Where are you right now?
I’m currently in Mission Beach at Wes Kremer’s house looking over to the sea.
Are you having a good time?
Yes, it’s banging. The weather’s been a bit shit, but it’s picking up now.
Aren’t you off somewhere tomorrow?
I’m meant to be going to Oregon for a contest, but I don’t know if I will. I haven’t been able to skate any ditches here because of the rain.
How has it been staying with Wes?
It’s been funny. It’s been really good. Just mellow: skating, drinking, just the same old shit you’d do anywhere else. He’s a legend.
How do you know him?
I met him at a few comps but I got to know him properly when I was living in Barcelona with Jack Thompson. Wes was skating with all the Sour boys a lot and Jack films them. Then I was drunk at that (Helsinki) Hellride contest and I was like: “I’m going to come and stay with you.” He was like: “Yes, do it.” A year went by and I thought: “Fuck it, I’m actually going to hit him up and see if he is down,” and he was keen.
And your plan was to skate ditches?
Yes pretty much, ditches and swimming pools, but obviously the rain wipes those spots out. Apparently it’s the worst weather they’ve had here in years.
What have you been doing instead?
We’ve been skating street. We’ve been getting stuff done, but it’s nothing… I’m hyped on everything we’ve got, but I want to get those enders.
What are you working on?
I’ve just been filming with my mates Harry (Deane) and Trix (Mike Ridout). We started to get some decent stuff so I thought: “Fuck, I should try to film a little part.” I’ve been speaking to Sam Beckett about trying to release it as
a Madness Skateboards thing, but it’s still not really finished so I haven’t thought about it too much.
So back to Wales, you’re living in Cardiff at the moment, right?
Yes, with my girlfriend. I’ve been there two years.
And you were in Newport before, then Barcelona…
I was in Newport, then London for a year, then back to Newport for a week, then I flew out to Barcelona for a year, then back to Newport for a month, then Cardiff ever since.
What brought you to Cardiff?
I was living in Spain. I was getting paid to skate but my girlfriend was over the call centre life. We went back to Wales for Christmas and she got offered
a better job there. I was like: “Fuck, I’ve been sort of dragging you around for the last couple of years, you should just take the job.” It was better paid and shit, so we just moved back there.
How’s the skate scene in Cardiff?
It’s sick. All the boys are smashing it. Harry Deane is making all those Washer edits. It’s a great scene, especially because Harry makes people go out and film stuff. We have Spit and Sawdust skatepark too, That’s just a nice place to be. The food is amazing and they know what they’re doing.
It sounds like you’re pretty content in Cardiff for the time being.
Yes. It’s so easy to move around from there. Bristol airport is 45 minutes away, I can get the Megabus to London for a fiver and it takes three hours. I didn’t want to hurt myself before this trip but now it’s summer, any free time I’ve got I’ll be in London. I guess towards the end of the summer I’ll go back to Barcelona and I’ll try to do another trip to Scandinavia, but Cardiff’s definitely my base at the minute. I’m enjoying it there.
When living in Barcelona did you experience the typical party burnout many describe?
When I was there I thought I had it down pretty good. I was skating five days a week. You see other people at MACBA and you think: “Man, you’re fucked.” People just get caught up too much. When I moved back (to Cardiff) I did realise I was drinking more than I should have, but there weren’t days in a row when I wasn’t going skating. That one day I was hungover, I’d just go to the beach. I was living with Jack so he was always just like: “Come on, we’re going filming.”
Those Sour guys are pretty productive. They’re out all the time.
Yes, it’s amazing. But the only thing… the thing I liked about coming back home is that you just go for a skate but over there (in Barcelona) you’re pretty much only skating to film.
It’s quite serious.
Yes, which doesn’t take the fun out of it – I love filming – but I sort of forgot just how to go skating for a little bit. I’d just go out, warm up and start trying a trick for hours. Then I came home and saw all the boys having sessions. I was like: “Fuck, I’ve definitely missed this.”
How is your body these days? I remember you had just had major surgery last time we shot stuff together, which was back in 2014.
Touch wood my knee’s completely fine. I get the odd niggle here and there but nothing that stops me skating. It was more mental. For a year and a half I was like: “Fuck, I know I can’t commit to that, I’m scared.” I don’t even think about it now. Maybe sometimes if I skate some big transition I’m a bit scared, because that’s how I hurt my knee, but then I’m like: “You can do it, it’s fine.” My body’s definitely all right now.
You stopped getting paid for skating quite recently. What are you doing for money these days?
When I got the call I was like: “Fuck, what am I going to do?” I spent my last pay cheque on a tree surgery course, which I think was just a panic buy. There are six different levels and I did the first one – which cost £1500 – but no one wants to take you on unless you’ve done all six levels of the course, which is like £7000 or something. I couldn’t afford to pay that not knowing that I’d have a guaranteed job at the end. When you’re self-employed you can go months without working. I didn’t want to risk that, so since then I’ve just been getting jobs, working, saving up, quitting, skating…
What work have you been doing?
I was working for the council after that tree surgery course.
So you were working as a tree surgeon?
It was grounds work. I thought I would be doing that, but I was just picking up twigs. I was like: “I’ve got my own chainsaw and I’ve got a qualification saying I’m competent with it,” but they were just like whatever. Some days they had me cutting grass, so I fucked that off. I spoke to Pete King and he had work ramp building. I was living off that for a bit, but that stopped around September time. I had a bit of money saved up so I managed to not work for another two or three months. Then it was just panic mode again for a while I ended up delivering for Amazon. That’s all right. It sounds shit. It’s self-employed, but you’re guaranteed work every day and you can go away for any amount of time. I’m not done with skating and travelling and shit just yet.
You’ve been pretty proactive making this interview happen.
I know you made a video part that Free released not that long ago and you’re working on another one now. Where do you find the motivation for these projects? It’s impressive. Usually it’s me or sponsors hassling skaters to do stuff. After I stopped getting paid to skate I thought: “I can’t be fucked, I’m not filming anything.” Then I started filming a bit and realised that I had half a part without even thinking about it, so I was like: “Fuck it, I’ll try to do another one.” Then I spoke to (Dave) Mackey (New Balance Numeric) and he started sending me shoes. Then one day he was like: “We’ve got travel budget for you.” That’s how I’m out here basically. They hooked that up and they hooked up a bit of money for petrol and places to stay and food and shit, so I guess I’m sort of on New Balance Numeric. I don’t know… They’re helping me out, which is sick. I’m just going to see what happens with that.
In your Free interview, Alex (Irvine) described how you and your Welsh mates used to make a living through the European contest circuit.
When I was 16 or 17 my dad said: “You’ve got to get a job,” and I replied: “If I win money at this contest will you get off my back for a bit?” I went to that ISPO comp and I came back with nearly two grand. I said to my dad: “I don’t think I need to work for a bit.” So I managed to do that for a few years. I just lived off fucking comp money and didn’t have to get a job (laughs).
Are you still part of that scene these days?
I’ve definitely fallen out of that scene. I don’t go to any fucking contests any more. The only reason I ever did them was because I didn’t want to work a shitty job when I was 17 and all I could think about was going skating. I wasn’t borrowing money off anyone. What difference did it make if I worked in McDonalds or won a comp and lived off that for three months?
What do you think about the contest scene now?
It’s a lot more serious. Fuck, when we were just skating mini-ramp comps and shit you could just drop in and wing it without having a run planned. Hopefully it worked out. These days – and there’s nothing wrong with this – but at the Vans Park Series if you fall off, you’re done. You have to plan your run out and end it with something hectic. It looks like everyone just does the same run every time.
What about the sportier approach to skateboarding that is growing in popularity? You’re from a very different culture of skateboarding.
I just grew up watching people smoke weed and drink beer and skate. I like
to eat healthy but I’m not going to make a song and dance about it. I still prefer skating how it was back then: having beers and going to the skatepark with your mates, especially when it’s a nice day. That’s probably the best part of skating for me. It’s what I enjoy the most.
I know you and Ben Raemers were close. Do you have any favourite memories of time spent with him?
Fuck man, I think this was the first time I ever met him. I’d obviously seen him in all the videos and shit because he was a few years older than me, so I always looked up to him. He skated so good and I wondered if he was a nice guy in person. I saw him at War of the Roses and I was sort of star-struck. I was just skating the bowl with him and we started talking from there and I remember thinking: “God this guy’s fucking sound.” He’s always been my favourite skater since then. We just got on really well. I’d see him at other comps and then one time he invited me to Barcelona and I spent two weeks out there with him skating every day. I can’t really think of a specific memory but every time we were together it was good. We always spoke lots. I’d come to London and it was always me, him and (Tom) Tanner hanging around. It definitely was a big blow, man.
What can we learn from Ben’s death?
We all need to talk to each other more. It’s not embarrassing to talk about your feelings. I haven’t been home but I’ve noticed that everyone is being a lot more open with each other now. There’s nothing wrong with saying you’re feeling down or whatever, just get it out there. There are people to help you. You can go and get help or if you want to talk to a friend, just fucking go and do it. I’m not saying that could have helped him but it might have done. It should definitely make things easier for people who do feel like that. Just try to get people to open up, you know? Mental health is no fucking joke. That needs to be realised more.
Would you like to thank anyone?
All the Freestyle, CSC and CRV WKD crews, my family, my girlfriend, Mackey and (Mark) Baines, Matt (White) at Dwindle, Sam Beckett and all the Madness boys and everyone else that deserves a shout out. You all know who you are. Much love. RIP Ben, we all love you mate.